If your German Shepherd has been acting timid, scared or afraid, you might be wondering why and what you can do about it.
This post will show you a number of reasons why your German Shepherd might be doing it and what you can do about it.
So, why is my German Shepherd timid, scared or afraid? Possible reasons are that it has been mistreated, there are noises that it doesn’t like, it’s unsure of its environment, illness or injury, being a puppy or you might have inadvertently reinforced the behavior.
There are a number of things to consider when trying to figure out why your German Shepherd has been acting that way. Depending on the cause, there are also a number of things that you can do about it.
Why your German Shepherd is timid scared or afraid
Each of the different reasons that your GSD has been acting that way will likely come with a number of clues.
Below, I will mention a number of reasons why it might be doing it and what would make them more likely.
The cause could be that there are noises that it does not like. Noises that it might not like could include thunder, sirens, wind or construction works. This would be more likely if it seems to become afraid when these noises are present. Dogs have much more sensitive hearing than us so it could also be the case that it hears a noise but you do not.
If it does seem to be the case that it is afraid of certain noises then you could try removing the noise if possible, getting your German Shepherd to stay in a quieter room when it’s inside and desensitization training. I have written more about what you can do about it not liking certain noises here.
It could be the case that it is timid due to mistreatment. This would be more likely if you recently adopted it from a shelter. However, it could also be the case that someone mistreated it recently as well especially if it became scared suddenly.
If it is adopted from a shelter then it would be likely that it will get better over the course of weeks. However, you could speed up the process by giving it positive attention, exercise and things to play with.
It’s unsure of its environment
If you have recently moved homes or you have recently adopted it then it might be the case that it is unsure of its environment. German Shepherds tend to like structure in their schedules and when things happen that changes it they can become apprehensive. This would be more likely to be the reason if your German Shepherd was not acting that way before moving homes.
In this case, it is likely that it will improve over the course of weeks.
Illness or injury
It could be the case that an illness or injury is causing it to be timid or scared. This would be more likely if it has been showing signs of being ill or injured such as by vomiting, limping or behaving differently. In this case, the best option would be for you to take it to a vet.
It’s still young
If it is still a puppy then it could be going through a more timid stage that many go through. This would be more likely if your puppy is around the age of 6 weeks old since it is not uncommon for German Shepherds to become slightly timid at around that age. In this case, it would be likely that it will become less timid as it gets older.
You intimidate it
It might be the case that you have been intimidating it. This might be because you approach it too quickly, you shout at it, get emotional around it or that you seem confrontational when around it.
In this case, it would help to be calm around your GSD and to give it lots of positive reinforcement training so that it learns how to behave the right way.
You have inadvertently reinforced the behavior
It might be the case that you have inadvertently trained it to behave that way by giving it things that it wants when it does it such as attention, toys or treats. Instead of rewarding it, when it is scared, try to reward it only when it behaves the way that you want and to ignore it when it is timid if it seems to be doing it for attention.
Things to consider
There are a number of things that you can consider when trying to figure out why your German Shepherd might be doing it. Below, I will mention a few particularly helpful things to consider.
If it has always been timid, scared or afraid
It would help to consider whether or not it has always acted that way or if it has started doing it suddenly since there could be an event that triggered it to start doing it.
If it started doing it suddenly then it could be due to things such as a certain noise becoming present like construction works, illness, injury or someone mistreating it.
Whereas, if it has always acted that way then it might be the case that you inadvertently trained it to be that way when it was a puppy but it could also be the case that it is naturally more timid.
When it does it more
It would also help to consider when it becomes more scared or timid.
If there are certain times that it tends to do it then it would be more likely that there is something in its environment that is causing it and it would help to consider what is different when it does it.
Whereas, if it is always timid then it would be more likely to be due to things such as being inadvertently trained to be that way, illness, injury or mistreatment by previous owners.
How old it is
It would also help to consider its age. If it is still a puppy then it would be more likely that it is going through a more timid stage. Whereas, if it is an adult then it would be more likely to be due to one of the other reasons mentioned above.
What to do about your German Shepherd being timid scared or afraid
There are a number of things that you can do about your German Shepherd acting that way. The best thing for you to do with your German Shepherd will depend on the cause of it doing it. Below, I will show you some options that you have.
Take it to a vet
If you are unsure of why your GSD has been behaving this way, it has started doing it suddenly or it has been showing other signs of illness or injury then the best option would be to take it to a vet.
By doing so you will be able to make sure that it is healthy and you can get expert advice on why your dog might be acting that way.
Make sure that it is getting the right amount of exercise
German Shepherds are a breed that is supposed to get a lot of exercise on a daily basis and when they don’t get enough it can cause behavioral issues. After the vet has confirmed that it is ok it would help to ensure that it gets at least an hour of exercise daily.
You can exercise it by walking it, playing fetch with it or having a dog walker do it for you.
Avoid negative reinforcement
As mentioned above, it could be the case that you have been inadvertently training your GSD to behave that way. Instead of giving it things that it wants when it is timid it would help to reward it when it is well behaved and to avoid giving it attention when it is scared.
Be calm around it
Since your own actions might be causing it to be acting that way it would help to be calm around your German Shepherd and to avoid making intimidating gestures. It would also help to give it lots of positive reinforcement training as opposed to punishment-based training.
Avoid physical punishment
If you punish your German Shepherd then it would be recommended to avoid doing so anymore. The reason for this is that it might not understand what you are punishing it for, it can cause behavioral issues and it could cause it to have feelings of resentment towards you.
Get help from a dog trainer
If you are unable to get it to stop being timid then it would be an option for you to get help from a certified dog trainer in your area. By doing so you will be able to get expert help tailored towards your dog.
When training your GSD it is important to be patient. It is unlikely that you will be able to get dramatic improvements with just one training session. However, you will be able to see much more noticeable results if you stick to it over the course of weeks and months.
If you would like learn everything that you need to know about how to have a happy, healthy and well-behaved German Shepherd, take a look at the German Shepherd Handbook